Where’s the Money?

10 Terrible Gift Ideas for Graduates From Dilbert Creator Scott Adams

Most gifts for grads—except cash, of course—tend to suck. Consider these strangely popular choices.


Many of you are wondering what kind of gift to buy for the innocent wretch in your life who is about to be excreted from the gentle embrace of our education system into the turd-infested pool of misery that we call work. I am here to help.

Gifts are all about the thought you put into them and the message they send. I did some online searching and discovered that all of the top graduation gift suggestions are—as far as I can tell—designed as clever revenge for the grad’s teen years. It’s payback time!

1. One of the top suggested gifts for grads is Money Clips. Try to keep a straight face when you give a money clip to a grad that has a mountain of student debt and no job prospects. Write something on the card along the lines of “This is to keep all of your money organized.” You want to leave some doubt as to whether your intention is to be an evil revenge-monkey or you’re just a terrible gift-buyer. If you’re like me, your unstylish wardrobe for the past twenty years is all the reasonable doubt you’ll need.

2. Luggage is another popular gift item for grads. Nothing says get out of my house like luggage. If that isn’t subtle enough, follow the example of my parents and combine the luggage gift with a one-way ticket to another state. Message received!

3. I learned from Google that digital cameras are still popular graduation gifts. Most graduates have smartphones in their pockets, so this is an elegant way to say, “When I think of you, I am reminded of unnecessary things.”

4. One Internet gift site suggested that you buy baskets of toiletries for grads. Let me explain something in case it isn’t obvious: If your gift has “toilet” right in the name, it will never be considered a family heirloom. This is the sort of gift you give to a coworker’s kid whose name you had to verify by asking around.

5. Gift cards are popular presents for grads. A gift card says, “I was standing in line at Starbucks when I realized I am obligated to buy a gift for someone whose life has never interested me enough to learn about their hobbies.” A gift card is an especially evil/clever gift for anyone graduating with a degree in economics. An economics major will recognize that you went out of your way to transmogrify your perfectly useful cash into an inconvenient receptacle of value that will someday get lost under a big pile of other things in a drawer.

6. Cologne was a popular gift suggestion online. The gift of fragrance says, “I’m not as happy as I could be with the odor coming from your body.” If you can think of another interpretation of that gift, you’re probably trying too hard.

7. Several gift sites suggest buying tool sets for grads. Tools pair well with a witty message on the card that says, “When I see tools, I think of you.” Or you could go with the more straightforward approach of “You’ll need these unless you’re the only broke thing in your home.” That might sound mean, but if you can’t have a good laugh at the expense of others, why are they even here?

8. If you can’t find an online source for butter churns, consider buying your graduate a watch. For those of you who are not old enough to remember, a watch was a device for telling time back in olden days, before smartphones. These days a watch serves primarily as a thing you have to wear when you are visited by the person who gave it to you.

9. I saw on the Internet a suggestion that you should buy your grad a Swarofski Crystalline USB memory stick. Your first reaction might be that there’s no obvious reason for such a product to exist. But someday when your grad is eating Top Ramen and wondering how to transfer the Stuxnet virus to his workplace, that memory stick will be just the ticket.

10. The most diabolical gift you can give a grad is my book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. If the grad goes on to fame and riches you can take credit for generously providing the book that made all of the difference. And if the grad does a career-long face plant and someday comes to you for financial help you can say, “You should have read the book.”

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Okay, that last item in the list was a commercial for my book and you probably didn’t appreciate it. But objectively speaking, if you were expecting to buy a graduation gift, I just saved you some time. Can we call it even?

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert and the author of How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.